The Talking Dog

August 6, 2006, When they stand up, we'll stand down... or something

The Grey Lady treats us to this discussion of increasing violence in Baghdad , where it appears that a reduction in American operations has been followed by an increase in violence. Why? Draw your own conclusions.

The correlation of these events seems clear enough for American commanders to double the American presence in the capital city from around 7,000 American troops to around 14,000 for what is described as a city of 7,000,000; I should note that I had previously seen Baghdad's population described as around 5,000,000. (That alone should tell you something-- our occupation levels in Germany, for example, were closer to 1:100; in Baghdad, we have increased from 1:1,000 to 1:500... and there is no question that "the mission" is one of occupation.)

In any event, the article does not paint a pretty picture of what is happening in Baghdad (most people won't leave their own neighborhoods; shops close at 2 pm, if they open at all, Moqtada "Baby" Sadr's Mahdi Army is patrolling the streets, etc.). Still, American commanders laud the competence and professionalism of Iraqi military and police, and note that they are simply overwhelmed by the level of violence.

Hmmm... Iraqis, we are told, have developed a fear of anyone in uniform, as sectarian militias frequently masquerade as the regular army (or worse, are regular army hours during business hours), while moonlighting as death squads.

American generals, meanwhile, note that the sectarian violence is getting worse, some contend the situation is devolving rapidly into a civil war, while our President assures us we need to "stay the course," whatever course that is. Democrats, for their part, insist that "a timetable" will do the trick-- forcing the Iraqis to realize that they can't rely on us forever, so that they will have to "step up". (Both views are duly lambasted in a Grey Lady editorial today. )

Short answer: while we had no particularly compelling reason to destabilize Iraq in the first place, we have done it. As such, while we can (and should-- endlessly) criticize the flawed (and incompetent... and corrupt) decision-making process that got us in the Iraq mess in the first place, it doesn't actually help to get us out of the mess. The reality is that abruptly leaving would leave us with a large failed state in the center of the world's premier oil patch, with not all that much preventing a spillover of sectarian chaos into, say, the oil-rich areas of Saudi, which, to the extent they are populated, tend to be populated by put-upon Shiites, who might well want to play ball with Shiite irridentists of the kind now seemingly dominating Iraq (and obviously in control of Iran) and whose Hizbollah proxies in Lebanon are giving Israel quite a fight.

In short, "we broke it we bought it" isn't really just an expression: it's now an unfortunate expression of reality on the ground. And until such time as we are all willing to drive Hondas rather than Hummers (seemingly a mad statement to most Americans), then we will need-- as in the same way we need oxygen, food and water-- to keep oil freely flowing from the Middle East, and hence, we will need to continue bleeding blood and money so that those supertankers can keep coming. [Note that I said absolutely nothing about combatting terrorism, because, of course, combatting terrorism has never had anything to do with any of this.]

This is reality. Sorry. Unfortunately, reality has never been an easy sell politically, especially compared to simplistic sound-bites. I can't come up with simplistic ways of selling any of it, however. Anyone got any ideas? Cause I got nothin'.


Well, TD, yes I do Heh heh heh. I propose that we reinstute debtor's prisons, with the authority to press these individuals into military service. That, and impress into the Navy any individuals encountered on the high seas. Is that great or what? Who says 100 degree heat can't inspire great ideas?

Posted by W at August 6, 2006 3:42 PM

But... staying in Iraq without a plan will result in the same failed state so, since no one has a plan for how or why we remain in Iraq, the public increasingly (and rightly) wants out. There are no good options here except to develop an actual, real plan of strategy costing hundreds of billions more while the country drifts into a recession. That is the best of this lot.

Posted by union at August 6, 2006 11:40 PM

The public certainly is starting to get itchy about wanting out of Iraq, but the public also wants their SUVs and cheap gasoline to fuel them, and evidently, more tax cuts for the rich (at least in the view of the public's "elected representatives.")

So, of all of these priorities, which will give first? Methinks our military will be tied up in Iraq for the foreseeable future-- protecting Saudi Arabia from the spillover of chaos we have created in Iraq.

Absent a draft, while the public may not like the war much, it's not going to get too incensed to actually do anything about it (save vote out the occasional Joe Lieberman every now and again, and even he would have probably won his primary but for his insistence on showing contempt for the voters).

Of course there is no "strategy" for Iraq-- the troops are there in a containment mode: contain the chaos within the borders of Iraq, and get as few or our people killed as possible in the process; it might take years... or decades... or forever (think of it like remediation from a polluted open pit mine, for example; the mining may last a few years... but the containment... is forever.) We've had "containment" doctrines before... remember Vietnam?

Not an easy mission, but that IS the mission. I would be remiss if I didn't point out the Times own helpful roles in (1) legitimating the fake intelligence associated with Saddam WMDs (thanks Judy!) and (2) helping to understate the scope of opposition to the war before going in, especially in NYC where it merrily understated the size of protests, including one I was at.

And there we have it. As I said, short of suggesting the sorts of things Jimmy Carter did in the late '70's vis a vis conservation, renewables and steps to energy independence... all political non-starters (because they undermine Americans' collective God given right to deplete our own and the world's resources as fast and as wastefully as possible... and because they aren't "opitmistic"...) I got nothin'.

When the world is our supply line, we have to be awfully careful about where we chose to break things... a care evidently not shown in Iraq (unless you accept the premise that Saddam was undermining Saudi national interests in oil hegemony, and hence, had to go, of course, regardless of the cost.)

Posted by the talking dog at August 7, 2006 2:07 PM

this is quite something

Terror Plot Suspects Planned 'Dry-Run' of Attacks in Next 2 Days, Sources Say

Posted by freed at August 10, 2006 5:54 PM